Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Moon younger than previously thought

18.08.2011
Analysis of a piece of lunar rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 has shown that the Moon may be much younger than previously believed.

This is concluded in new research conducted by an international team of scientists that includes James Connelly from the Centre for Star and Planet Formation, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen. Their work has just been published in Nature.

The prevailing theory of our Moon’s origin is that it was created by a giant impact between a large planet-like object and the proto-Earth very early in the evolution of our solar system. The energy of this impact was sufficiently high that the Moon formed from melted material that began with a deep liquid magma ocean.

As the Moon cooled, this magma ocean solidified into different mineral components, the lightest of which floated upwards to form the oldest crust. Analysis of a lunar rock sample of this presumed ancient crust has given scientists new insights into the formation of the Moon.

Luna rock from Apollo 16

“We have analysed a piece of lunar rock that was brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. Although the samples have been carefully stored at NASA Johnson Space Center since their return to Earth, we had to extensively pre-clean the samples using a new method to remove terrestrial lead contamination. Once we removed the contamination, we found that this sample is almost 100 million years younger than we expected," says researcher James Connelly of the Centre for Star and Planet Formation.

According to the existing theory for lunar formation, a rock type called ferroan anorthosite, also known as FAN, is the oldest of the Moon’s crustal rocks, but scientists have had difficulty dating samples of this crust.

Newly-refined techniques help determine age of sample
The research team, which includes scientists from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Carnegie Institute’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and Université Blaise Pascal, used newly-refined techniques to determine the age of the sample of a FAN that was returned by the Apollo 16 mission and has been stored at the lunar rock collection at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

The team analysed the isotopes of the elements lead and neodymium to place the age of a sample of a FAN at 4.36 billion years. This figure is significantly younger than earlier estimates of the Moon’s age that range to nearly as old as the age of the solar system itself at 4.567 billion years. The new, younger age obtained for the oldest lunar crust is similar to ages obtained for the oldest terrestrial minerals - zircons from Western Australia - suggesting that the oldest crust on both Earth and the Moon formed at approximately the same time.

This study is the first in which a single sample of FAN yielded consistent ages from multiple isotope dating techniques. This result strongly suggests that these ages pinpoint the time at which this sample crystallised. The extraordinarily young age of this lunar sample either means that the Moon solidified significantly later than previous estimates – and therefore the moon itself is much younger than previously believed - or that this sample does not represent a crystallisation product of the original magma ocean. Either scenario requires major revision to previous models for the formation of the Moon.

Contact
James Connelly
Centre for Star and Planet Formation, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.
Email: connelly@snm.ku.dk.
Phone: +45 28 51 99 62.
Martin Bertelsen
Communication Officer
Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.
Email: mlbertelsen@snm.ku.dk.
Phone: +45 24 48 21 47

James Connelly | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ku.dk

Further reports about: Apollo Earth's magnetic field Moon NASA Planet Space Center magma ocean solar system

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht SF State astronomer searches for signs of life on Wolf 1061 exoplanet
20.01.2017 | San Francisco State University

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>